Sunday, July 19, 2009

Like a Crabby Old Woman

When we were little, B and I danced in the living room for our babysitter, flourishing hairbrushes and belting out "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin" with abandon.

Many years have passed since we were that unselfconscious.

B arrived from New York City late Thursday night with two colleagues from the Jewish hipster magazine where she is associate editor. They're here in Chicago until tomorrow, ostensibly to cover Pitchfork and drum up some magazine subscribers.

She arrived on my doorstep wearing a denim jumper with suspenders, high-heeled suede boots, and a plaid blouse, and assured me she is at the height of a bizarre fashion the kids are calling "hobo-chic." Perhaps embarrassed that at the early hour of 11pm, I was wearing a matronly robe and my husband's slippers, B paused a moment before flinging her arms around me. Then she pointed to her shoulder, which bore a freshly peeling tattoo of her initials in Sanford font.

In one of our rare moments together in the last few days, my formerly shy and nerdy sister clicked through the angst-filled photos of her 987 Facebook friends to point out who among them she has dated in the last month: a bartender, a photographer, a journalist, and a documentary maker. For my belated-birthday gift, she brought me earrings made of bullet casings.

Although B's visit is technically "a business trip," I was looking forward to a weekend of getting to know this strange, tattooed person and finding my little sister again behind her navy nail polish and loops of gold chains.

This has not happened.

First, her colleague D found himself unexpectedly homeless for the weekend, so he ended up on our floor. Then, "for the sake of journalism" B had to attend random all-night parties with Pitchfork band members, so she has left the house early each morning and returned home around 2am, by which time F and I, fuddy-duddies that we are, have already been asleep for approximately five hours.

Since Thursday, our apartment has been overrun with suitcases, bedding, and boxes of magazines. I could not help feeling put-out and put-upon as I handed over my house keys and told B to have a good time at the second late-night party in two days. Our robust, OCD cat Barry kept me up all weekend because he doesn't like when strangers invade his living-room, and I spent yesterday in the waiting room of Marvin's auto repair while the car's electrical grid was re-wired--only to have it die again at 9:30 (half an hour past my bedtime!), just as I squeezed between two mac trucks in Pitchfork's VIP parking section.

As I waited for B and her colleagues, a man toting a cart of kegs yelled at me for parking the defunct jeep in front of his mac truck. So, running on little sleep and a lot of stress, I wallowed in self-pity and looked forward to this evening, when I would have the apartment to myself.

B and F will be at Pitchfork until 10 tonight. So far, I rented two movies, bought a parsley plant, visited the grocery store, and put in a load of laundry. Now begins the relaxation. I exchanged one of F's punk CDs for
Like a Virgin and whipped up some banana bread.
Note my new parsley plant and the requisite whiskey bottle among my banana bread clutter.

After such a hectic weekend--before the start of an even more hectic week--I thought I would be relieved to have the apartment to myself for a little while. But as the apartment throbs to the first unmistakable beats of "Material Girl," I can't help wishing B were here so we could dance together in our pajamas, once more with abandon.

At least she'll have some banana bread to take with her on the plane.

Mom’s Banana Bread
From Cooking Light, November 1996

4 loaves, 4 servings per loaf (serving size: 1 slice)

* 1 cup sugar
* 1/4 cup light butter, softened
* 1 2/3 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
* 1/4 cup skim milk
* 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
* 2 large egg whites
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine sugar and butter in a bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add banana, milk, sour cream, and egg whites; beat well, and set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; stir well. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, beating until blended.

Spoon batter into 4 (5 x 2 1/2-inch) miniature loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Let cool completely on wire racks.

Note: To make one 9-inch loaf, spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; bake at 350ยบ for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Yield: 1 loaf, 20 servings (serving size: 1 slice).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quiz in the Kitchen

Weird head image courtesy of University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Ganache. Ceviche. Panna cotta.

If you watch cooking shows such as Bravo's "Top Chef" and "Top Chef Masters," you've probably heard these and other 50-cent food words tossed around like croutons in a summer salad. But--hands off the keyboard!--do you know what they mean without looking them up?


Oh, you might know a few on this list. But unless you work in a restaurant, you'll probably be stumped by the rest.

See how many of these food words you can correctly match with their definitions.

--James A. Fussell, McClatchy/Tribune News

Hey James, you've got to try a lot harder to stump High Heels in the Kitchen! I got 24 out of 25 correct (I guess I know less about raw meat than I thought I did...)

Beat that!

Click here to see if you can do better.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fish and Flowers

This is my first time making whole fish. As advised by various fish-focused websites, I looked for trout with unclouded eyes and shiny scales. These two were bright and glistening, which I found mildly intimidating. I'm used to fillets without skin or eyes--or teeth.

Although these trout did have eyes and teeth, they came all clean and gutted so it wasn't nearly as traumatic as it could have been. When the fish man handed my trout packet over the counter, however, I admit that I did have to fight the urge to gag. I could feel the fish body through the butcher paper, and the packet flopped with a rubbery heft.

Worse than the flopping was the tingle under my fingertips as I massaged gritty rosemary mixture into its moist scales.
He watched me as I rubbed.
But after a mere eight minutes on the grill pan (on which you can see he got a little ragged), we had ourselves some flaky, tender trout with a side of roasted potatoes and asparagus. It tasted much better than it looks. F and I partook of our delectable dinner on the back patio, which we really ought to use more often.

A special thank you to S, who gave us the beautiful glass-blown wine glasses in celebration of our nuptials. We toasted S, each other, and our trout. Then F ate the eyeballs.
Since I can't end bear to end this post with a photo of trout eyes, I'll wrap this up instead with some lovely nature photos of our back patio:

Recipe for Grilled Trout with Rosemary and Garlic
From Cooking Light

This simple presentation is a go-to summer recipe that allows the flavor of the fish to shine. If you like, substitute thyme for rosemary.


4 servings (serving size: 1 trout)

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 (8-ounce) dressed whole trout
  • 4 (6-inch) rosemary sprigs
  • Cooking spray

1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl.

3. Cut 3 diagonal slits on each side of fish; rub rosemary mixture evenly over fish. Place 1 rosemary sprig in cavity of each fish. Place the fish on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.